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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

A Hate Frozen in Bias

I’m going to start this post with a story. At the international school that my trio of children attend here in Bangkok, my middle child, Jared, has a foreign language teacher that he cannot stand. Jared finds this teacher to be unfair, capricious in his punishments, and unhelpful when asked for advice. At first, I thought my middle child was being his usual stubborn self, but after a few interactions (i.e., back to school night, parent-teacher conferences, emails), I can verify that Jared’s teacher is rude, paranoid, obnoxious, unable to hear criticism, and basically should find another method of employment. Because of my new-found attitude toward this teacher, I now view everything this teacher does through the lens of my own dislike for him. In all subsequent electronic correspondence with this teacher, I now read his words with his sarcastic, defensive tone, which colors my emotions of what the teacher is trying to convey. I realize that. I understand that. I try to modify my displeasure towards this teacher, but it’s tough.

My displeasure towards this teacher taints his input and so the output I take away is sullied by my bias. It’s coming to the point where the teacher could say, “Jared is fantastic”, but I would read that praise as ironic.

I understand this issue is mine and I need to work on it. An article I recently read in BBC News showed me that I am not alone in allowing my hate to bias me, but at least I’m working on it. The same cannot be said for Kevin Swanson.

When I first read this article on the BBC’s website, I at first could not convince myself to click on the link to read it. I simply could not comprehend that anyone would go so far as to say that the Disney movie Frozen had a “gay agenda”. You can read that story here.

Well, I finally did click on it and it was even worse than I thought.

Kevin Swanson, a talk show host, makes the claim that not only is Frozen part of a conspiracy to turn kids gay, but that this movie is “…evil, just evil.” Oh, but why take my word for his word when you can leap on over here and read selections from his diatribe.

If you’ve read Swanson’s comments and if you’ve read the BBC News article, you notice that Swanson offers up absolutely no evidence for his allegation that Frozen promotes homosexuality. None. So, with no evidence to back up his claim, where does Swanson’s claim come from?

It comes from the same place where my displeasure for Jared’s teacher originates. It comes from bias.

For someone who is so biased against gays (as an example, this article makes the claim that Swanson wants homosexual behavior criminalized), it makes sense that he would see everything in popular culture through the lens of his bias. Just like I read the teacher’s emails with my biased view against him, Swanson’s view of movies is colored by his bias.

That doesn’t make it right, it just makes it irrational.

I should lean into my irrationality and remember the words of Mark 12:31, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”

I wonder if Swanson is aware of that passage.

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The controversy has been out of the news of late – Mitt Romney hasn’t been talking about firing Big Bird and National Public Radio hasn’t fired anyone for their views – but I wanted to write about federal funding for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting (CPB).

First, though, some givens that I want to set up front for this piece. According to this October 2012 article from ProPublica, the CPB was set to $445 million over two years. For simplicity sake, I will cut that number in half and assert that the CPB was scheduled to receive $222.5 million for a fiscal year.

Second, funding cuts both ways. When the government hands out money – as in the case with CPB or any other organization or agency, it can be said to be funding that entity. Likewise, if the government grants a tax break to an organization or agency, it is in essence funding that entity also because the government is letting that group keep money that it would have paid out. If the feds grant me a tax credit or exemption of $100 on for IRS 1040 form, it is the same as if they had given me $100. So, the federal government can subsidize something by giving it money or by not taking away money that other groups have to pay.

While doing a bit of research for this post, I came across this piece by David McElroy. One part of his argument about government funding for CPB is “…the problem would be that government is funding a mechanism that influences our culture.”

Okay, so the feds should be out the business of funding those groups that influence culture. Check.

Another line of reasoning follows the thread that federal funding should not go towards groups and organizations that espouse views different from the author’s. Mostly this thread comes from conservative or right-wing writers who see National Public Radio and other CPB outlets as having a leftist or liberal bias (here and here and here).

Okay, so the feds should be out the business of funding organizations with an obvious bias and holds views that I do not believe in. Check.

With the above “checks” in mind, let me propose a fair swap of funding subsidies.

I will gladly trade CPB’s annual $222.5 million and I will do by utmost to pick up the tab for the programs I enjoy (Marketplace, Studio 360, Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me, etc.)…

…if you agree that the federal government should stop subsidizing religion to the tune of $71 billion (yes, with a “B”) per year as determined by this study. The federal government funds religious organizations by giving them tax credits in the form of deductions for charitable donations and for exemptions from paying property taxes.

Religion influences culture. Check.
Religion – especially the non-Jewish ones – have a bias and hold views different from my own. Check.

Religion fits both criteria above as held by those authors who want the federal government to stop funding CPB.

I realize this means that my synagogue will have to come up with some extra funds, but just like NPR’s Morning Edition, I will be there to help them out during their annual pledge drives.

If you don’t think this plan would work, you should have more faith.

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…until events like this start happening in the United States, Americans like this (and all others) will be banned from uttering the phrase “War on Christmas”.

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Being an American living abroad, I am absolutely embarrassed by where things stand in my country of birth.

Really, America, this is the state of your political dialogue two months before a presidential election?

Four people, including the American ambassador to Libya, are killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi and part of the initial response from the Republican nominee for President was…

It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks…

Not far behind with the strategy of let’s-move-past-the-atrocity-and-get-back-into-political-sniping came this response from the Obama administration…

We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack…

You can’t be serious that after an attack on American soil that killed four and with American embassies threatened in Yemen and Egypt, that the two people contesting to be the leader of the United States of America are engaging in a petty verbal squabble as if they were a pair of toddlers fighting over the same See ‘n Say?

As if that kindergarten battle wasn’t enough to make me vomit, I surf the Internet only to find out that this is a true and happening controversy…seriously?…THIS!?!

People of a religious bent are bent out of shape because a soda maker dares to use evolution in its marketing campaign?

I am so happy, America, that you have solved the issues concerning the jobless recovery, rising costs of entitlement programs, the $16 trillion debt, and poverty so that you can spend your time on such flighty matters.

I am relieved I have one more year in my overseas adventure. Maybe, America, you can screw your priorities on straight by the time I come back.

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He’s A He

It is a good thing that our family is moving to France as I won’t have to do something unpleasant. I won’t have to tell the rabbi of our congregation that we are leaving the temple because of the rabbi.

Now, with less than two months to go until we board a plane for Paris, I can simply tell our rabbi that we are severing our ties with the temple because the commute will be a bitch.

Yes, it would be more satisfying to tell our rabbi that we are leaving the temple because of the new ways of thinking the rabbi has put in place since becoming our rabbi a year ago, but with my eldest son’s Bar Mitzvah coming up in less than a month, I find it more prudent not to rock the boat.

So what has my fringed tallit in a twist?

To start off with, our rabbi, during Shabbat services, has started to introduce mysticism (Kabbalah, numerology, and even astrology) into the sermons. Sorry, I was raised in a Conservative temple and shamanistic beliefs do not fly with my understanding of Judaism.

Secondly, during one of our family’s conversations with the rabbi for Christopher’s Bar Mitzvah, my son asked the rabbi if the Exodus actually happened. The rabbi said “No, it probably didn’t, but it makes for a good story”.

WHAT !?!

It’s one thing for my no-goodnik of an ex-college roommate to espouse such utter nonsense, but it is quite another when the head of a Jewish congregation expresses doubt about the veracity of one of the tenets of the whole Jewish faith – that of the freeing of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt by the Almighty.

The last straw came during another of our meetings with the rabbi about Chris’s Bar Mitzvah. Chris had written his speech and had used the male pronoun (He, Him) when refering to the Lord. The rabbi actually suggested that all the male references be replaced with more gender-neutral language.

He is a He. Our prayers speak of the Lord as Father and Sheild. He is a He.

So, I’m done with the rabbi. Consider me old-fashioned and hanging on to tradition, but as a wise man once sung, “Without tradition, we would be like a fiddler on the roof”

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Rapturious Questions

So, Judgement Day (as some people allege) is still on schedule for May 21…a day and three weeks away.

I have a few questions about this event and they go a little something like this…

One) Since the earth is divided into twenty-four time zones, will J-Day sweep its way across the globe an hour at a time like New Year’s Day?

Two) Due to the difference in days caused by time zones (i.e., when it is 12:01am May 21 in Japan, it is still May 20 in France), will J-Day have to wait until the entire planet is on May 21?

and my favorite

Three) When May 22 rolls around and the sun rises on Sunday and J-Day has not occurred, what will be the excuse given by those who sounded the alarms of panic as to why the horns of Judgement did not sound?

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